Fort William is not pretty place despite being a seaside town on the lovely shores of Loch Linnhe, and close to the hulking snow-dappled Ben Nevis (1,344m; 4,409 ft), Scotland’s highest mountain.
Much of the town is a mix of ugly concrete traffic islands, underpasses, shopping centres and bland housing. Yet despite the aesthetic challenges the pedestrianized centre has a pleasant buzz about it: it’s an important regional centre for Highlanders and rivalled only by Aviemore as an outdoor activity hub in Scotland.
It’s at Fort William that the West Highland Way ends and Glencoe is close by. “Fort Bill” is also a major venue on the Mountain Bike World Cup circuit, with all the action on the foot-slopes of Ben Nevis, where you can take a gondola up and, if you like, ski or mountain bike back down.
Other attractions include the Jacobite Steam Train to Mallaig (+44 01524 732100; mid-May–late-Oct); the West Highland Museum (Mon–Sat; free) with its many Jacobite relics; and the geological attraction Treasures of the Earth (daily; £5), with its multitude of glittering gems in the village of Corpach, 4 miles south of Fort William via the A830.